WordPress Lexicon

WordPress has its own terminology, as does the web in general. This section aims to help you make sense of the web's confusing lingo, especially how it relates to WordPress. An explanation of each term is provided, along with articles to help you achieve success.

An .htaccess file is a type of configuration file used by Apache web servers. This file is used for adding or removing functionality for a website. If the file is placed in the root directory, it will affect your entire site. But it can also be placed in a sub-folder, and thus will only impact the contents of that folder.

Common actions that can be enabled by an .htaccess file include:

  • Password protection
  • Rules for specific IP addresses
  • Custom error pages
  • URL Redirects

An Administrator is a type of user role that has access to all of the administrative features of a WordPress site. The first user created during the WordPress installation process is assigned the Administrator role.

Because they can manage every aspect of your site, you should limit the number of Administrators, and make sure all Administrator accounts use a secure password.

Asynchronous JavaScript And XML. AJAX is a method of exchanging data with a web server, and updating parts of a web page, without reloading the entire page.

Using a combination of JavaScript & XmlHttpRequest, AJAX can speed up the loading time of a web page, use less bandwidth, and provide a smoother, faster user experience.

Alt Text

Alt text (or alternative text) is text added to an image in order to describe the contents of the image. Screen readers use alt text to describe images to visually impaired users.

Alt text can only be added to images inserted using the <img> tag; not to background images added via CSS.

Alt text can also have a positive impact your site’s SEO.


Apache is software that runs on a web server, and helps deliver a website to the user trying to access it. It is free and open-source, and helps power over 50% of the web.

Many WordPress hosts use the Apache software on their servers, as it pairs really well with other platforms that help power WordPress.


Application Programming Interface. In simpler terms, an API is how one piece of web software (website, app, etc.) receives and displays data from another website, app or web-related service.

WordPress has an API which allows other platforms & services to extract data from a WordPress database, and display it in whatever way they would like.


An attachment is a term used to describe WordPress media (images, PDFs, audio files, etc.) that has been associated with a page, post or other piece of content.

Media items can be attached (added to a post/page) or unattached (uploaded to the entire site via the Media Library).

An Author is a type of user role that has access to certain editing features of a WordPress site. They can only create posts & upload media files, and can only edit and delete posts that they themselves have created.

A WordPress Author has no access to Settings, Themes, Plugins, Users or Pages, and they cannot manage Comments.


An avatar is an image that represents a user on the internet. You can think of it much like a profile picture on a social media network.

In WordPress, your avatar is often displayed next to your blog comments. You can also highlight the author of a post by displaying his or her avatar.


Just like you can backup files on your computer, you can backup your website. It is simply a copy of your site.

In WordPress, a complete backup will consist of both your site’s files AND database. Typically, website backups are handled by your hosting company or a plugin.

bbPress is a plugin used to create a discussion forum on your WordPress-powered website. It is developed and maintained by some of the same people who help maintain WordPress itself.


Cache (pronounced CASH) refers to the temporary storing of data. Data can be cached in your web browser or on a server, and both methods of caching help to speed up a website.

Many hosting companies, as well as WordPress performance plugins, offer various levels of caching solutions.


“Calypso” is the codename for the redesign of WordPress.com’s editing experience & new desktop app. Calypso was launched in late 2015 and built from the ground up using only JavaScript.


A Category is a type of WordPress taxonomy used to help organize your posts. Alongside tags, categories group similar content and help users find related posts on your blog.

Child Theme

A type of theme that piggybacks off of your parent theme (or main theme). A parent theme is required to use a child theme. Child themes are a great way to customize a theme that was developed by a third-party.


Content Management System. A CMS is a type of software that simplifies the process of creating, publishing, editing & organizing content on the web.

Popular CMSs include: WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Wix & Squarespace.

A Contributor is a type of user role that has very limited access to a WordPress site. They can only create new posts, but cannot publish them. Posts will be saved as “Pending” and submitted for review. The Contributor role is an excellent choice for outside writers whom you want to contribute to your blog.

Once an Editor or Administrator publishes the post, the Contributor can no longer edit it.


A type of software commonly used by shared hosting companies that makes it easy to manage a web server. Examples of common actions performed using cPanel include: uploading files, accessing a database, managing multiple domains, viewing website stats, creating backups, and much more.


Cascading Style Sheet. CSS is a type of programming language used to design websites. Background colors, fonts, margin/padding, text colors, alignment, borders and various other design elements are all controlled with CSS. WordPress themes are designed (and can be customized) using CSS.

Custom Fields

WordPress custom fields allow you to display additional information about your posts, pages & custom post types. This information can be in many different formats, and it will be stored in addition to the main content of your post.

Custom Post Type

A post type is a specific type of content that exists on your site. Default post types include posts (as in blog posts), pages (for an ‘about’ or ‘contact’ page), and media (for images, PDFs, etc.).

Custom post types are simply additional types of content that website administrators can create for their site. This content can then be filtered, sorted and displayed differently on your site.

The WordPress Customizer is a page within the admin area that allows site owners to adjust the look & feel of their website, as well as preview the changes before making them live. Access the Customizer by going to Appearance > Customize.

The options within the WordPress Customizer are controlled by theme authors, and will differ depending on the theme you are actively using. Common examples of options within the Customizer include: background colors & images, link styles, site identity & logos, menus, widgets, custom CSS and more.


A database is like a complex system of Excel spreadsheets that live on a web server, and contain all of your website’s content.

Web hosting companies provide databases as part of their service offering. A few popular types of databases include MySQL, MariaDB, Microsoft SQL & PostgreSQL.

WordPress requires a database in order to manage your site. Either MySQL or MariaDB are recommended.


DomainKeys Identified Mail. DKIM is a type of email authentication system. More coming soon…

DNS, which stands for Domain Name System, is the mechanism which connects a domain name (yourwebsite.com) to the IP address of the server where the website is hosted. DNS uses several types of DNS records to achieve different outcomes.

The 4 main types of DNS records are:

  • A
  • MX
  • TXT
Domain Name

A domain name is how your website is recognized on the web. It’s what a person types into their browser to access your site. The domain name of this site is wpsmackdown.com.

A domain name is one of several requirements in order to build a website. They can be purchased online for between $8-20 from various companies (often referred to as a domain name registrar).

An Editor is a type of user role that has access to most content editing features of a WordPress site. They can create posts & pages, manage categories & tags, as well as upload & manage media files. Unlike Authors, who can only edit their own content, Editors can edit all content on a WordPress site.

However, a WordPress Editor has no access to Settings, Themes, Plugins or Users.

Google Authenticator

Google Authenticator is a smartphone app (available for Android & iPhone) that makes it easy to set up two-factor authentication for your online accounts. This provides a second layer of security, in addition to your username & password.

Google Authenticator provides a six-digit code that refreshes every 30 seconds, and can only be accessed via your smartphone. Even if someone guessed your username & password, they would need to be in physical possession of your phone in order to access your account. This is one option (out of several) in which you can set up two-factor authentication for any of your online accounts.


General Public License.


Globally Recognized avatar.


Codename for the new visual content editor on self-hosted WordPress sites.

Released: December 6, 2018


HyperText Markup Language.

A section of the WordPress admin area that stores the media files for your website. This includes images, PDFs, MP3, etc. The Media Library provides an easy way to upload files, edit images, and modify information about your files.

Page Builder

Typically a plugin (but occasionally included with a theme) that provides more control over how you edit your site. Page builders allow you to drag’n’drop various elements onto a page, and break the page up into sections.

There are a handful of both free & premium page builders available for WordPress, including: Beaver Builder, Elementor, Site Origin, Pootle, Divi, Visual Composer and more.


Short for “permanent link,” this is simply another name for a URL. The permalink represents the unique URL where a specific page on your site can be found.

All WordPress posts, pages & other content have a unique permalink. Example: yourdomain.com/2017/01/post-title-here/


PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor.


A collection of files that can be installed on your WordPress site that adds functionality beyond what WordPress provides by default. Plugins are developed by members of the WordPress community, and can be free or premium. Popular plugins include functionality for SEO, site analytics, ecommerce, security, backups and more.


Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary.

Screen Options

Screen options allow you to customize what you see in your WordPress admin area. They are located in the top-right corner of all WordPress admin screens. Choose to show/hide custom fields, the featured image, excerpts and more. You can also set a “posts per page” limit when viewing “All Posts.”

Screen options are specific to each individual user.


Search Engine Optimization. SEO is the process of getting your site to rank higher on search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.). This, in turn, should help drive more traffic to your site.

There are easily 50+ different techniques to consider when performing SEO. It’s important to remember that Google is constantly improving its algorithm, so there is no way to game the system. Be wary of anyone guaranteeing certain results.

WordPress shortcodes are small pieces of WordPress-specific code that let you do powerful things with very little effort on your WordPress site. Think of them like “shortcuts.” They can insert buttons and forms, embed videos, insert photo galleries & much more with just one simple line of code.

Shortcodes are contained within brackets, like this: [this is an example shortcode]


Secure Sockets Layer.

A Subscriber is a type of user role that has very limited access to a WordPress site. They can essentially only do two things: edit their own profile and view the Dashboard. They have no site management capabilities, nor can they edit content.

This role is sometimes used as a way to allow users to view subscriber-only content, or as a prerequisite for leaving comments.

A Super Admin is a type of user role that has complete access to all administrative features of a WordPress Multisite network. They only exist in a Multisite installation; the role cannot be applied in a typical WordPress setup.

A collection of files that can be installed on your WordPress site that dictates the layout and styling. Themes are developed by members of the WordPress community, and can be free or premium. You may only run 1 theme on your site at a time (exception: child themes). Themes typically consist of PHP template files, CSS, images & some JavaScript.


Transport Layer Security, often just referred to as SSL.


Uniform Resource Locator.

WordPress user roles are designed to give the website owner the ability to control what users can and cannot do within a site. Each role is allowed to perform a set of tasks, or capabilities.

There are six pre-defined user roles in WordPress, but an infinite number of custom roles (with custom capabilities) can be created. The six default roles are:

  • Super Admin (Multisite only)
  • Administrator
  • Editor
  • Author
  • Contributor
  • Subscriber
Web Browser

A piece of software that runs on computers, tablets & smartphones that allows you to access a website. Popular web browsers include Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple’s Safari & Microsoft Edge.

WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that helps convert your website into an online store. You can sell physical goods, digital products, or set up a site to promote products from another website.

WooCommerce turns a regular WordPress site into a fully functioning ecommerce store.

The WordPress admin area is comprised of all the pages that you use to manage your WordPress site. This includes, but is not limited to: the Dashboard, Settings, Posts, Pages, Comments, Media Library, Themes, Plugins, Customizer and more.

These pages are not visible to your website’s visitors; they are used exclusively by site editors & administrators for the purpose of managing your website.

Autosaves are automatically saved drafts of your WordPress posts. By default, a new autosave is captured every 60 seconds as you edit your content. These autosaves are saved in your database as part of the WordPress revision system. Should your computer crash, you lose internet connectivity, or encounter another unforeseen interruption while editing, you can restore the most recent autosave to pick up where you left off.

A specific page within the WordPress admin area that contains basic information about your site. This is the first page you see after logging into the admin area.

Information on this page may include, but is not limited to: your WordPress version number, the amount of posts/pages/comments, your site’s most recent comments, WordPress news & events, and other Dashboard widgets that may have been added by plugins.

Revisions are like snapshots of your content throughout time. Every time you click “Save Draft,” “Publish” or “Update” on a piece of content, a revision is created to save your content at that exact moment in time.

You can revert back to previous revisions from the post edit screen, and limit (or disable) the number of revisions that WordPress stores.

The WordPress Toolbar (previously known as the WordPress Admin Bar) is found at the top of your WordPress admin area. It contains links to create new content, update your profile and perform various other administrative functions.

You can also choose to have the Toolbar appear on the front-end of your website.


What You See Is What You Get. A general term used to describe an editing experience. When editing content in a CMS (like WordPress), if the content in the backend appears exactly as it will on the site when you publish it, you are using a WYSIWYG editor.

The visual editor in WordPress is considered a WYSIWYG editor.

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